Briar Williamson's voice resounded off of the walls in the dome shaped Atrium, his voice echoing in my head, repeating the same thing over and over again…
'He was there! I saw him, Mr. Fudge, I swear it was You-Know-Who, he grabbed a woman and Disapparated!'
Had those words been spoken aloud in the Ministry of Magic by anyone, at any other time, and under any other circumstances the one to have said it would have been fired on the spot. This, however, was not any other time, and the circumstances were such that I felt that even I could have shouted those very same words… had I not found myself rendered speechless.
“I know, Williamson, I know. I saw him too!” The Minister responded, the shock in his voice was evident to us all. “Merlin's beard, here - here! - in the Ministry of Magic! Great heavens above, it doesn't seem possible… my word, how can this be?'
My head, along with many of my co-worker's, snapped around as Albus Dumbledore's voice cut off the Minister's, sounding calm and collected. I didn't understand how he could remain that way after what had just taken place before our very eyes. I stared at him for a moment as he proceeded to talk to the Minister, and my eyes traveled across to Harry Potter. There had once been a time when I had respected both Dumbledore and Potter, but that regard had long since vanished after everything they had attempted to put the Ministry through the previous June. It struck me as quite odd that they both turned out to be within the Ministry itself at the same moment that the lie they had been feeding us for so long appeared to come out as a truth.
Ever since the previous June, Dumbledore and Potter had been insisting that You-Know-Who had returned from the dead, something that every wizard knew to be impossible. Not only was there no spell to bring back the dead, but they insisted that this particular wizard had returned after thirteen years was absurd. The Minister had guessed, and I had agreed, that these claims were merely an attempt at causing chaos in the wizarding world as Dumbledore fought to take control. I just couldn't understand how Dumbledore could so readily trust Potter, with the history of tall tales that he had invented. Needless to say, Dumbledore had instantly believed Potter when he had said that You-Know-Who had returned, and he had instantly tried to broadcast this lie to the world.
When I had received an urgent message from the Ministry, not a few minutes before the arrival, telling of a breach at the Ministry and the need for instant aid, I had not expected to find myself staring, however briefly, at You-Know-Who himself as he took hold of a dark haired woman…most likely the escaped prisoner Bellatrix Lestrange… before he vanished completely from the Atrium. And it was a shock now to learn, by listening to a few of Dumbledore's words, that a group of escaped Death Eaters were sitting in the Department of Mysteries, caught red handed in the act of trespass and thievery.
I, Percy Ignatius Weasley, was not fooled for a second. Explanations were soon rushing through my mind to explain the happenings. There was no way that I was going to fall for this, and I knew that none of my colleagues would either.
The first, and major, thought that struck me was that this was an elaborate hoax set up by Dumbledore and Potter. It seemed like the sort of thing that they would do at the current time, given the circumstances. With Dumbledore loosing all power that he had with the Ministry, I was surprised that the two of them hadn't acted any sooner. Then again…that factor told me that it most probably hadn't been them. If it had been, they would have acted sooner.
Perhaps it had been the escaped Death Eaters? It was common knowledge around the Ministry that the Death Eaters would do absolutely anything to cause an uproar in the Ministry, and what better way than by making everybody believe that their master had returned after so many years. If it had been them, they hadn't done a very good job. That was evident from the fact that Dumbledore had just informed all of us standing in the Atrium that there was a whole group of them down in the Department of Mysteries, caught and held there by an Anti-Disapparition Charm.
Or, if not that, then maybe someone who worked within the Ministry itself were playing some kind of sick joke. If that was the case, I felt sure that they would be fired sooner rather than later.
I jolted out of my state of stupor and found myself looking at the Minister. It took me a few seconds to fully register that the Atrium was now buzzing with the sound of people talking quickly and quietly to each other, the expressions on all of their faces those of shock and…fear?
“Minister,” I greeted him, giving him a small nod.
“I need you to send an urgent owl to the Daily Prophet,” the Minister replied. “Tell them about everything that's just happened, and make sure that the owl doesn't get intercepted.”
“An urgent owl about what, Minister?” I asked, paling slightly. “Surely not about the things that just occurred? You don't seriously believe that all of this is real, do you?”
“I'm afraid so, Percy,” the Minister said solemnly, his eyes locking onto mine. “There's no doubt about it. This isn't your everyday kind of prank being pulled by someone. This is the real thing.” He took a deep breath before going on. “I regret to have to inform you, and the rest of the world, that He Who Must Not Be Named truly has returned.”
I stood staring at the Minister for a moment, slowly trying to absorb the words that he had uttered. I couldn't quite believe that he, of all people, had dared to say these words after all that he had done to prevent this lie, this deceit, from surfacing to the world.
“S-Surely not, Minister,” I stammered, shaking my head. “You know as well as the rest of us that You-Know-Who being back is impossible. Nothing can bring back the dead - nothing.” Seeing that the Minister didn't look quite as convinced as I felt, I went on. “It's some sort of hoax. It has to be. Somebody's trying to scare you into telling the world that You-Know-Who has returned so that paranoia and hysteria will be able to spread throughout the world and cause everyone to panic!”
“No, Percy,” the Minister replied, a faint half-smile crossing his lips. “I'm afraid that there is no longer a doubt in my mind that Dumbledore was right. Nobody could pull off a hoax like that. Nobody at all. And that leaves us no other choice but to believe that it is the truth.”
I couldn't believe that I was hearing this, and straight from the Minister's own mouth, too. But I had come to trust the Minister while I had been working at the Ministry, and he had never yet been wrong in the things that he had done. The denial that had taken over me slowly ebbed away, leaving me feeling quite lost. I didn't know what to do. Never in my wildest dreams, or rather nightmares, had I ever thought about You-Know-Who returning to the wizarding world. It was quite unnerving.
The Minister walked past me, going off to deal with a few other employees who seemed to be more scared than anything else. I shook my head of flustered thoughts and made my way across the Atrium. I had a job to do. The Minister had entrusted me with the important task of informing the Daily Prophet of You-Know-Who's return, and no matter how much I hated the idea of it, I knew that it had to be done.
I shuddered as I took a blank slip of parchment and began to print clearly on it the nature of our situation. I could barely bring myself to say it, let alone write it down - yet here I was, about to send a letter to the Prophet saying something that I wished with every fiber of my being to be false. But the truth was that it wasn't a false accusation; I knew that now. The Minister had indeed been wrong, and Dumbledore right. And I think that's what scared me the most. It wasn't the fact that You-Know-Who had returned after fourteen years of being gone - it was the fact that someone I had always looked up to, believed, trusted in, had been proven wrong.
I felt rather betrayed at this thought. The Minister had been someone that I thought I could always count on, yet here was the proof that he wasn't all that reliable after all. After sealing the letter to the Daily Prophet with an official Ministry stamp, I gave it to one of the most trustworthy owls that the Ministry possessed and opened the window to allow it access to the open night air. I watched as it flew off into the distance, trying to ignore the fact that my life seemed to be falling to pieces around me. It was all just more than I could take.
It was every person's worst nightmare - seeing You-Know-Who back and in full power. Worse, even more powerful than ever before! I wondered for a moment what was going to happen to the Ministry because of this, but realized that I didn't much care. There was a more pressing subject on my mind. Something much more important that the Ministry, or my job, or anything else that I could think of.
A surge of guilt ran through me at the thought of them. I could remember the last time I had spoken to them as if it had been only yesterday. I'd had a row with my father, which had resulted in me packing my bags and leaving the house for my apartment in London, which really didn't feel much like home, anyway. I'd heard from a few people that my sudden departure had left my mother in tears, and my siblings in a fit of rage. Thinking back, I realized that I really couldn't blame them. If it had been one of them in my position, I probably would have done the same thing.
But now I realized that they had been right all along. By siding with Dumbledore, they had done the right thing. It was I who was immoral, and it had taken the worst things to prove that to me. Hiding my face in my hands, I gave a long sigh. I didn't know what to do. My family was now shattered, and it was entirely my fault - because I had been too proud, too power-hungry, to take the time and think about what I was actually doing. I hadn't listened to anything that they had told me. I had believed that the Ministry was in the right, and so had turned my back on the only thing that had ever mattered to me - the only thing that still mattered to me.
Leaving a quick note for the Minister should he come to investigate where I had gone, I gave a purposeful spin on the spot and, with a small pop, vanished from the room. Ignoring the sensation of being pulled through a rather tight tube, I focused on my destination. When at last the discomfort came to a halt and I felt a soft breeze brushing against my face, I opened my eyes.
The Burrow, tall and lop sided, stood before me. It had been so long since I had been back to the house where I had grown up, yet still it was so familiar to me. I could locate every crack in the walls, pin-point where every window led, and determine the origin of every sound that could be heard, from the confused voices of the lost garden gnomes to the outrageous clucking chickens, which had always been annoying to me.
I brought my reminiscence to a halt and, taking a deep breath, walked straight towards the door. I could hear voices all around, which I recognized at once as being those of my parents. I gently pushed the door open, and entered the house. It was something that I had often done as a child; living in the ranks of Bill, Charlie, Fred and George, I had learned to enter the house with as little sound as I thought was possible, so as to sneak past them without being doused in a bucket of water, or something more sinister.
But today, I entered silently for a more important purpose.
I strolled across the room and stood in the frame of the kitchen doorway, looking in at my mother and my father. My mother was looking flushed as she rushed around the kitchen, cooking and cleaning as she usually was, all while she spoke to my father, who was sitting at the table looking tired and worn as he read the Evening Prophet. I shuddered to think of what he might do the following morning when he read, in bold letters on the front page of the paper, that You-Know-Who was officially at large once again.
As I fell still once again, my mother tensed. I knew the reaction well - it was like a certain sixth sense that she had for whenever one of her children entered the room in a fit of rage, unhappiness, surprise, shock, or any other strong emotion for that matter. All at once she spun on the spot and faced me.
Silently, I nodded. My father looked up at the sound of my mother's words, and I looked between the two of them. They seemed to have aged so much more than the last time that I had seen them, and it relatively scared me.
An awkward silence fell between the three of us, during which my father stood and he and my mother came to stand before me. The size difference between them, I noted, looked the same as ever. It was something that my siblings and I had often laughed about, but now it just gave me a sense of comfort; a comfort that allowed me to speak at last.
“I'm sorry.” It was the first thing that I could think to utter, and I really meant it. “I'm sorry for all the trouble that I've put you both through. I never meant for things to turn out this way, but now they have. I don't know what to do anymore. The Ministry knows now that You-Know-Who's back. There's no more denial in the air. I…I'm sorry.”
“Oh, Percy,” my mother cooed, strolling over and throwing her arms around me. “It's all right. You weren't to know. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it from happening.”
“The others are going to hate me…” I mumbled, thinking about what my brothers and sister would say if they could see me right now. “Absolutely want to kill me…:
“They won't,” my father disagreed, joining my mother and wrapping an arm around me. “They'll understand. You did the right thing, Percy. You stood up for what you believed in. That's what we taught you to do, even if it meant standing up against your family.”
“I'm just so glad that you're back,” my mother sobbed into my shirt.
I was silent for another moment before responding.
“It's good to be back.”
And it was the truth. I knew it was. There was no uncertainty in my voice at all, and I knew that there never would be when it came to my family. They'd always understand me, even if I thought they didn't. It was something that I was grateful for, and always would be. I knew that now.
I was home.
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